Man, do I wish the poster and marketing for Baby Frankenstein reflected the actual film. Of the two posters I found online, one contains a foreboding image of the titular character front and center surrounded by the rest of the cast in various stages of shock and horror, all enshrouded by smoke. The other one features a creature that looks nothing like the film’s Frank Jr., but a more monstrous vision creepily crawling out of a dusty toy box, looking ready to unleash hell on the viewer.
The fact is, they both could not be further from the film itself, which is a genuinely sweet-natured throwback that holds none of the menace or monstrosities alluded to within either piece of art. Granted, the discovery of the creature is initially jarring, but there’s far more packed inside Baby Frankenstein than your typical monster-on-the-loose fright-fest.
Lance Wilton (Ian Barling), and his mom, are relocating to a new duplex and he quickly discovers an artificially-created creature (Rance Nix) collecting dust in his attic. When activated, it springs to life, curious of its surroundings, perhaps even a tad too inquisitive. Lance enlists the help of his cute neighbor Truth (Cora Savage) to help keep the creature under control.
“…they must help the monster, dubbed Little Dude, elude his mom’s money-hungry, layabout boyfriend…”
Together, they must help the monster, dubbed Little Dude, elude his mom’s money-hungry, layabout boyfriend (Patrick McCartney). The boyfriend wants to capture the creature for the reward money, but a mysterious well-dressed man (Andre Gower) whose company manufactured the beast is also after Little Dude.
Yes, Baby Frankenstein is more akin to E.T and Harry and the Hendersons than your average monster movie, and it’s better for it.
The practical creature effects applied to Nix are quite impressive, and the actor embraces the inquisitive, ornery nature of his monstrous alter-ego. And the entire cast wholly embraces the simple, magnanimous tale without a hint of irony. Both its younger stars (Barling and Savage) have genuine chemistry that is never once forced, and you feel they are invested in the well-being of their newfound friend.
The supporting cast (which includes Gower, the lead in The Monster Squad, which shares Baby Frankenstein‘s DNA) all fit snugly into their various comedic roles, especially McCartney, whose loutish behavior fuels much of the film’s comic relief.
But it’s not a perfect film. While writer-director Jon Yonkondy is to be credited for providing work for a couple of hometown rock bands, the choice to include their songs throughout is distracting. The scenes featuring these songs would have benefitted more from a wordless score than screaming guitars. Additionally, there are a few awkward moments that feel out of character, such as a mild-mannered neighbor talking about “bumping uglies” with Lance’s mom directly to Lance. Plus, some lines edge closer to a more adult audience instead of wholly embracing the family flick it is at its core.
That said, Baby Frankenstein is stitched together with its heart in the right place. And if you are willing to overlook its various budgetary scars, it’s a refreshing throwback told with humor and humanity that feels nothing like what its creepy cover art deceptively threatens.
"…more akin to E.T and Harry and the Hendersons than your average monster movie, and it's better for it. "